From The Alpha and the Omega - Volume III
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1/3/1999, all rights reserved
"Ugaritic Writing"

    As time passed a totally different form of alphabetic writing assumed great importance during 1800-1400 B.C., namely the cuneiform alphabet associated with Ras Shamra, or Ugarit.
    The Ugaritic from the Ras Shamra Tablets have shed much light on the meaning of the Hebrew Bible.
    Ras Shamra (Arab, Fennel Head). Phoenician mythology preserved from Philo through Eusebius, mostly has been disproved by the archaeological discoveries of the recovery of the religious epic literature at the site of Ras Shamra (the ancient Ugarit of the Egyptian and Hittite Documents and the Amarna Letters) on the north Syrian coast (1927-1937).    The modern name of the mound that marks the site of the ancient city is Ugarit, located on the Syrian coast opposite the island of Cyprus.    Its excavations have revealed five major strata, the earliest dating to the Neolithic period (beginning around 10,000 B.C. in the Middle East and later elsewhere, characterized by the development of agriculture and the making of polished stone implements).
    Ugarit was swept from the historical scene in about 1200 B.C., when the Sea Peoples overran the area.    The city is mentioned in Egyptian historical inscriptions, in the Amarna Tablets (Akkadian), and in Hittite records.    Its relations with Egypt were quite close during the Twelfth Dynasty and again in the time of Ramses II.    Ugarit was at its peak of its prosperity in the fifteenth-fourteenth centuries B.C. but was destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-fourteenth century (1450 B.C-1195 B.C.).    This occurred during the period of the Exodus.
    Many significant finds, the most striking was that of a scribal school and library of clay tablets, adjoining the large temple of Baal and dating from the Amarna Age.    A majority of the tablets (from the high priestís library) were written in an unknown cuneiform script, with an alphabet of some thirty signs, which was eventually deciphered and called Ugaritic, and found to be of the Semitic family and closely related to Hebrew.
    Originally the claim was that ancient Ugaritís tablets contained a script of only twenty-seven different characters.    This proved to be archaic Hebrew, dated about 1400 B.C., hence one of the earliest alphabetic writings yet known.    As you can see below are thirty characters, all of them consonantal, except that three of them indicate the type of vowel occurring after aleph, whether a, i [or, e], or u.    The language was in both Babylonian cuneiform and an unknown cuneiform script, which turned out to be alphabetic, with no syllable signs, ideograms or determinatives.    Several copies of a 30-character alphabet were found representing twenty seven consonants and three vowels.

30 Ugaritic Alphabet Letters
    The find at Ras Shamra were diverse in script and language and similar to the north-west Semitic writing: four languages, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian and Hurrian, and seven different scripts, Egyptian and Hittite hieroglyphic, Cypro-Minoan, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian and Ugaritic cuneiform.    Ugaritic script and its origin remains a mystery, and one source claims that it was an attempt to adapt the cuneiform to the alphabetic system.    The oldest inscriptions in the Phoenician alphabetic writing date from 1000 B.C., the earliest Ugaritic script is thought to date from about 1500 B.C.
    This very early dialect of Canaan, contains several consonants not in any of the Northwest Semitic scripts:
    In the Arabic (such as rough heth, z as in Arabic nazara, "to see"; th as in thalathun "three").
    Not in Arabic (such as zh like the English s in pleasure).
    These shapes of characters form by wedges have no similarity to the signs of the Sinaitic letters or the Akkadian syllabary.    They have no pictographic origin whatever.
    After the violent destruction of Ras Shamra the Ugarit alphabet declined in favor of the Phoenician.
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